Xenia - a place to be inspired
The Xenia Creative Development Centre is one of Bowen’s hidden treasures. Tucked behind Killarney Lake and surrounded by Crown land, this 38-acre-property is a nature sanctuary founded by Angelyn Toth. Purchased over 19 years ago, Toth transformed this neglected sheep farm, with the help of dedicated volunteers, into an impressive refuge for people who wish to slow down, relax and reflect. Described by Toth as a labour of love, this sanctuary faced many trials and tribulations. About nine years ago, Xenia faced financial distress and Toth almost lost her home to the bank. She persevered and inadvertently saved Xenia by starting a second business. Xenia is now thriving and attracts people from all over the world. It has been used as a retreat for Japanese yoga teachers and strategic planning getaways for organizations. Writers and artist come to reconnect with their creative sides and many weddings have taken place using the beautiful gardens as a backdrop. This global retreat has contributed to the Bowen economy for over 19 years and most of the visitors wish to stay on Bowen bypassing the hustle and bustle of Vancouver city.
Xenia also offers silent retreats that have become a signature program. “The essence of this program is to become more inwardly focused, learning to ignore the demands of the external world. It’s a way of saying: ‘Stop world, I want to get off.’ It’s about getting in touch with your creativity by using the silence and the nature as a dynamic process to bring about inspiration and change. Then, in a gentle way come home to the self through the nature of slowness and meditation. Half the time people can’t hear what’s going on because they are going 100 miles an hour,” states Toth. The first silent retreat of the year will be held January 25 to 27, followed by another session March 29 to 31.
Details that contribute to the property’s uniqueness include Bowen’s oldest heritage building which is now preserved as the Lodge at Xenia. This impressive dwelling was built in 1882 and has exposed split logs, a native building technique developed in this region. Xenia is also home to many animals which include horses and a well-fed, pot-belly pig called Charlie who is a true favourite amongst visitors.
Open to the public, Toth welcomes people to enjoy the Opa tree, the labyrinth and the sanctuary (the lodge and the barns are closed to the public and require special permission to visit). The Opa tree is a 1000-year-old Douglas Fir, which is one of two old growth trees still remaining on Bowen. This ancient tree has many scars from loggers but remains standing majestically for everyone to enjoy. The labyrinth is a Celtic design outlined in stone, waiting for anyone who wishes to walk the 11-circuit maze.
The sanctuary is a warm and inviting space ideal for meditation and relaxation. Every Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m., Matthew Smith invites the community to come and join him at the sanctuary for a “soft songs and chants” singing session. “This is an opportunity to sing spirit-lifting and nature based songs and for people who like peace and quiet and meditation,” says Smith, who has been writing chants for three years. The Sunday singing at the sanctuary will not be held during the silent retreats so check the website (www.xeniacentre.com) for details.